Artificial Intelligence

The Human Landscape

Look at the artwork that humans have made in the world. This is an old turf house on the bird sanctuary of Dyrhólaey, Iceland, in the midst of its old house fields, or tun (from dung, ie where you spread it, at the limits of unaided human strength). You can see the buildings of four farms, Skammadalur, Skammadalshól, and Giljur (new and old, the larger community) across the lagoon. Up high, there’s the Myrdal Glacier. A fine human habitat, all of it, in late Autumn light.

So, out of the experience of a human body, and especially of a human body in such a cold place:

a human is home in a field, because the human needs to make survival out of something,

the home takes the form of a house (this is Earth, things take form here),

the house is in a tun (a house field, the reach of a man’s arm, a place of doing and dunging)

and surrounded by fields (places of gathering and ranging but with borders, because they are folds, folded in),

all set within wild land, which is set between the forces of cold and heat, ie in the Miðgard, the “Gard” or “garden” where humans are kept, our field.

It feeds us. Yes, that’s the same word facing in a different direction. Nice.

Now, individually, that house, that representation of a human body, is in a physical world, and at the heart of our languages in the North a “world” is a revolving circular space, or, if you like, a whirlpool. It whirls. It swirls around a precise focus. The focus is that house, that draws the energy in, just as its fire draws in air and gives off flame. In other words, it is a place of energy.

Home Sweet Home!

Collectively, rather than individually, the environmental physiology is a little different. Let’s look again:


Now we can see more farms in the distance than in the first image of this post. That’s a densely populated stretch for rural Iceland. This is fine farmland here, and you can range your sheep right up to the ice. The world here, as those farms show, is not just the whirlpool of energy that is the earth, but a web of energy connecting those houses along a special extension of a tun called

a road, for rolling things on,

and a way, for walking.

In other words, the whole social network that has replaced the world with a social space is not the hand that makes a tun, which makes the grass grow, but a foot, which makes a way towards others. Humans need that. Humans are social animals as well as individual ones. They need a social world and a physical one. Both of them. If you cut off dunging of land, improving it, you have no relationship between hand and land. You have no future. If you cut off a path to others, you have no feet, creating memory out of space. You have no past. All you have is the present. That is the state of affairs in the Okanagan today. It is much celebrated. In true colonial fashion (rather than the fashion of a culture of settlement, as in Iceland), around $750,000 is spent to turn a small piece of world, grassland, into a social space, connected by roads rather than by ways. You can’t walk here. It is not a human landscape.

Neither can you use your hands here. That is done by machines. Farming is set up around their bodies, and in the shape of their energy. Farming, in other words, is about creating thick matrixes of parallel roads. This is a world that humans have carefully created for machines.


Again, it is not a human world, except as the recipient of care. Around it, however, remains wild land. Have a look at some of it.

It has been turned into weeds and fire scars because there’s nobody living in it, in a home surrounded by fields, from which it draws energy and, as shown by the tun, where manure is shovelled out of the barn in the spring, returned to make wealth. No, we leave it on its own here, without making a space for ourselves in it. Indigenous people have picked up an American term here, and call all non-aboriginal peoples “settlers.” It’s a wildly inaccurate term. They’re not settled at all. Now, may I introduce you to the owners, on a fall taxation patrol in front of my house:

Yesterday, I introduced the idea of an Umfeld, a surrounding psychological space. Shortly, I’ll work at linking the experience of a dehumanized world, with the concept of environmental health, to introduce the idea of environmental psychology. In German, an Umwelt, an environment that stands in a causal relationship with a being (or something like a being), is different from an Umfeld, which is psychological, and represents the surroundings of a being (or something like a being), without a causal relationship between them. I’m going to argue that the distinction is not only an example of artificial intelligence but obsolete and the relationship between the two terms is far closer than that.

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